Above: Into Mischief (USA) | Standing at Spendthrift Farm America

Trying to keep the lid on the expectations of an early market Kentucky Derby fancy is not an easy thing at this time of year, but China Horse Club’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Wallace is happy to keep a low profile with Life Is Good (USA) (Into Mischief {USA}) as he heads towards next month’s G1 Santa Anita Derby.

China Horse Club know what it’s like to have a high-profile build-up to the famous ‘Run for the Roses’, which this year will be held on May 1. Three years ago, Justify (USA), which it co-owned with Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm, emerged through the G1 Santa Anita Derby to become the leading contender for the Kentucky Derby.

The son of Scat Daddy (USA) duly saluted at Churchill Downs before going on to claim the G1 Preakness S. and then complete the Triple Crown when winning the G1 Belmont S. in China Horse Club’s red and yellow colours.

The comparisons between Justify and Life Is Good are somewhat inevitable, given the Into Mischief (USA) colt is also trained by Bob Baffert and has been ridden in his three starts by the man who had such a strong connection with the Triple Crown winner in Mike Smith, who has described him as ‘very, very talented’.

Another Into Mischief colt trained by Baffert, Authentic (USA), managed to demolish his rivals in the Kentucky Derby in 2020.

Wallace, currently in the United States, was trackside to watch Life Is Good win the G2 San Felipe S. by 8l at Santa Anita earlier this month and while keeping expectations in check, is clearly excited by what he has seen.

“It’s the time of year when you are sorting out the wheat from the chaff a little bit and it was great to see him put in a performance like that. There’s a long way to go, but you’d rather see that than not,” he told TDN AusNZ.

“Everybody knows that the targets for him are a little bit later on and there’s no-one better to have involved than Bob to get them ready for those days. What we are seeing is a progression to those type of races, as Bob is such a genius at doing.”

China Horse Club has been very active pursuing quality talent from the American yearling market in recent years and it was at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale that it came together with Maverick Racing, WinStar Farm’s racing arm, to spend US$525,000 (AU$678,740) for a colt by Into Mischief consigned by Paramount Sales.

Bred by Gary and Mary West, Life Is Good is a half-brother to the three-time winner Approved (USA) (Awesome Again {USA}), out of Beach Walk (USA) (Distorted Humor {USA}), a daughter of stakes-winning mare Bonnie Blue Flag (USA) (Mineshaft {USA}). Bonnie Blue Flag is a half-sister to Diamondrella (USA) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), who along with being a Grade 1 winner is also the dam of a horse Australians will know well in Spectroscope (USA) (Medaglia D’Oro {USA}), who was a Group 3 winner for Godolphin.

From powerful yearling to Derby contender

Life Is Good left an impression on Wallace as a yearling and has continued to impress every time he has seen him.

“He was always a very physical and powerful horse. He always had that great balance. He looked like a fast horse, a speedier horse, so that’s what he’s showing now, that he’s very, very fast,” he said.

“We just need to see if he can stretch out to that distance (10 furlongs), but he was a beautiful model and he’s continued into that now. He’s a magnificent specimen.”

“We just need to see if he can stretch out to that distance (10 furlongs), but he was a beautiful model and he’s continued into that now. He’s a magnificent specimen.” – Michael Wallace

But experience has taught Wallace not to get too far ahead of himself and he is keen to let Life Is Good do the talking on the racetrack, with his next assignment on April 3.

“We set out a plan a couple of years ago to go and buy yearlings to try and get horses like this. It’s a hard thing to do, and we are lucky enough to have a horse that at this early stage is putting himself in contention to go to the big days,” he said.

“We all know that it’s a day-to-day and week-to-week proposition, so you hold your breath, cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

More Mischief likely

Pre-post markets currently have Life Is Good as second favourite at US$4.50 for the Kentucky Derby, and he would be bidding to become the second son of Spendthrift Farm’s Into Mischief to win the race in as many years after Authentic.

Into Mischief’s remarkable record in the United States just continues to grow, both on the racetrack, where he had two Breeders’ Cup champions in 2020 in Authentic and Gamine (USA) and in the sales ring he had five seven-figure yearlings in the US.

Wallace sees that influence only growing on a global scale, and while his bloodlines haven’t reached Australia in a significant way yet, there is every chance the likes of Authentic and others could be headed this way in the near future to make a major impact.

“We are getting a few more farms which have those cross-over stallion portfolios. No doubt Into Mischief is going to continue to play a leading part in the American scene here in the next short while,” Wallace said.

“We’ll see a number of colts come out in the coming years that will head down to Australia. He’s a horse that throws a lot of speed into his progeny, so obviously that’s very suitable for Australia.”

“He’s (Into Mischief) a horse that throws a lot of speed into his progeny, so obviously that’s very suitable for there in Australia.” – Michael Wallace

Wallace also sees the appeal that the Into Mischief genetics would have to commercial breeders in Australia, who are becoming more and more aware of the opportunities on offer from these American bloodlines.

“I think genetically and physically, they will cross with the Australian broodmare band really well. You have that bit of colonial speed there and with what he can provide, it could work for sure,” he said.

Article courtesy of TDN